Please Stop Photoshopping My Face
18 August, 2017

It is 2017, and Ukraine has only just started talking about discrimination towards people with disabilities and deformities. There are fifteen categories of discrimination illegal under Ukrainian legislation. Yulia’s case does not fall under any of these categories, but since childhood she has experienced rejection by broader society.

Yulia has a condition called Lymphangioma, a benign tumor whose cells come from lymphatic vessels. The tumor is located in her face, making half of it visibly larger than the other.

Photo credit: HROMADSKE

My condition is called Lymphangioma. In the West, it’s called Lymphatic malformation. My diagnosis has a lot of sub-categories. Mine is of the microcavity lymph tissue and is not curable, especially after surgery has been done on it.

I had four operations with no results. They were done purely for cosmetic purposes, and not for medical reasons. Just so I would look normal, like everyone else.

The most obvious discrimination that I have ever experienced was when I didn’t get a job because of my appearance. It was one of the first jobs that I’d applied to. They told me they wouldn’t take someone with my face to work there.  I asked why. The HR representative just told me, “Because I don’t want to.”

Gradually society lets you know that this isn’t for you and that isn’t for you, and in the end it seems like there’s barely anything for you.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been in a position where I have to fight for my basic rights. Even going out to public places.

I never thought that I would reach a point when I wouldn’t want to change myself. It only happened recently, at the age of 30. Feminism and other human rights movements mean a lot to me. You just have to apply these ideas to your own life.

It’s a process until the point when a person decides that they are not going to change themselves according to what society wants, that they are going to accept themselves. It’s also a journey one has to go through.

I don’t like it when I’m photoshopped. I don’t want our society to glamorize itself.

We don’t see a lot of different people, and we are shocked when we see them. It’s a question of representation. We have to show these people, talk to them. They should own their own stories.